Mark 3: From the House of Bondage to the House of God
Last week we saw how Jesus ministry is focused on rebuilding the house of Israel. And this project is bringing the history of Israel to a radical head. Faithful Israel must follow Jesus as their Bridegroom or else be swept away like the temple so many years before.
A Withered Hand
1 Kings 13 records the story of King Jereboam’s withered hand. If the stories are parallels, the presence of a man with a withered hand is an indication of not only uncleanness and deformity in Israel but also of grave liturgical error and compromise (cf. Jeroboam). The synagogue has become a house of demons (1:23, 39) and therefore the rulers of the synagogues are inviting them by their actions. This is proven by their hypocrisy: Jesus asks whether it is right to do good or evil, save life or kill. And their responses (silence and plotting to destroy Him) indicate that they prefer the latter options. In this sense, they are far worse than Jeroboam. Given this answer and what follows we can liken this old Israel to Pharaoh and Egypt; it has become a “house of bondage”.
From the Sea to the Mountain to the House
The word translated “withdrew” would probably be better translated “fled”. Notice the geography of this flight: to the sea, where he is nearly crowed into the sea (3:7, 9), and then to the mountain where the twelve are appointed (3:13-14) and finally into a house (3:19). This should remind us of the Exodus where Israel went out of Egypt, out of the house of bondage, fleeing from Pharaoh and his armies to the sea. After crossing the Red Sea, Moses leads the people to Mt. Sinai where God claims the twelve tribes of Israel as his own and gives them instructions for how they are to live (Ex. 19-24) and how to build and keep His house (Ex. 25-40). Considering all of the previous wilderness and house themes that we’ve seen, this is yet another indication from Mark that Jesus is reconstituting Israel, remaking His special people.
Before considering the final narrative, it’s helpful to have some background as to who or what Beelzebub was/is. In Mark, the scribes who accuse Jesus, assert that He has “Beelzebub” or “Beelzebul” explaining that he is “the ruler of the demons.” (3:22). If there is a connection or perhaps an allusion or pun on “Beelzebub” then we’re being invited to remember the god of Ekron in 2 Kings 1, where Ahaziah rejected the prophet of Yahweh (Elijah) in favor of another god and is judged severely. His punishment for Baal worship is also a greater judgment on the idolatry of the house of Ahab. Baal-zebub means “lord of the flies.” Beelzebul, however would translate as “lord of loftiness” or “lord of an exalted dwelling” related to the name of Leah’s sixth son to Jacob, Zebulun (Gen. 30:20, cf. Ps. 49:15, Is. 63:15). Regardless, we know this accusation is false because at Christ’s baptism he received the Holy Spirit. But furthermore, with a little help from Luke’s version of this parable (Lk. 11:21-22), we know that the one who binds the strong man must be stronger (cf. Mk. 1:7). Jesus is the one who has entered the strong man’s house and bound him (1:13). Jesus’ ministry of casting out demons is his plundering of the strongman’s house (Israel).
A Divided House
The last fifteen verses form what is sometimes called a “sandwich story”. “His own people” (v. 21) and “His brothers and His mother” (v. 31ff) appear to be the same people. At the center of the story of Jesus’ family is a parable about the family of Israel. But if it is wrong to assert that Jesus is dividing the family of Israel, he is at least plundering it. And this gives some explanation of Jesus’ reaction to His family. He is founding a new family, a family that is tighter than blood. We have already seen this displayed briefly in the fact that Jesus has been going around asking people to follow him. He’s playing the part of a father, giving new occupations (1:17) and giving new names (3:16-18).
If Jesus came to bring Israel out of bondage, leading them to a new mountain and to a new house, it can be no surprise that this same pattern holds as the gospel progresses in history. The family of God supersedes the family of Adam, and every house will be plundered. The only question is whether you will be a willing house or not. The history of Israel is the story of the failure of the family. Blood is the problem. But in Jesus Christ, the bloodguilt has been paid. This is your family here, and only here are families put back together.
In your zeal to recover a biblical family, do not grasp for your family, but give it up to Jesus. Only after you have given it up and taken up your cross, will God raise you and your family back up and bring you back together.
We don’t need ‘family values’. Family values have been giving us this culture for the last 75 years. We need the cross of Jesus. Men need to learn how to die and follow Jesus. Women need to learn how to die and follow Jesus. Children need to learn how to die and follow. Give everything up and follow Jesus. And He will raise you up.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen!